Coffee — though extremely popular today — has endured a bittersweet journey. According to legend, the red berry was first discovered by an Egyptian herder who observed his goats’ elevated energy levels upon consuming the fruit at dusk, ironically keeping him up all night. He shared his discovery with local monks, who in turn found that a potent drink made with the berry was useful for riding out long stretches of evening prayer. By the 15th Century, public coffee houses had reached the Arabian Peninsula and were brewing with social activity (nice try, Starbucks), where the stimulant developed a reputation for inciting radical thinking and fraternizing, which was viewed as a threat to governing rule. Consequently, there were several attempts to ban the “bitter invention of Satan” back in the Old World — a barbarian-style punishment that hardly fit the crime.
Beer and wine were the breakfast beverages of choice when coffee reached Europe in the 17th Century, but were obviously not reliable for alertness and productivity. Thus, coffee replaced them as the common morning ritual. The Brits (always the epitome of cool) then introduced the roasting bean to New Amsterdam, which would eventually bode well for the New World thanks to a crazy little Tea Party in Boston. Soon after, Thomas Jefferson declared coffee “the favorite drink of the civilized world.”
In an effort to honor Jefferson’s choice brew, we asked select coffee and cocktail connoisseurs how best to spike our morning cuppa. What we received were four delicious, autumnal, tummy-warming pick-me-ups that can be concocted from the items available in any well-stocked pantry (we recommend with breakfast only if your day doesn’t include plans of operating heavy machinery or throwing a leg over any horse power).
According to Russ Johnson, the mixologist for Charlotte, NC-based Stagioni restaurant, “When attempting to create a delicious craft cocktail that incorporates coffee, the first step I take is figuring out the notes. Coffee, like wine, has its own varietals and many complex flavors, encompassing everything from savory to spicy, chocolate to floral, and herbal to stone fruit. One of my favorite ingredients for a coffee drink is bourbon.”
Therefore, allow us to present mix master Johnson’s signature Barter & Trade:
James Yoder, the purveyor of an inventive spectrum of brewing techniques and founder of Not Just Coffee, a line of new-era cafes with five outposts in Charlotte had this to say: “I believe in finding complementary flavors in whatever drink you are building. A good balance of sweetness, acidity, body, and bitterness. Coffee is a great way to add complexity, so experiment with different single origins and blends to find something that works.”
Yoder offered up the recipe for his signature caffeinated cocktail, Adrenaline Rush, as well as two other favorites, the Espresso Mule and Rye Chai:
The bottom line: Whether you choose Jack, Jim, Johnnie, or Jefferson, sometimes your Joe could benefit from a good drinking buddy.